I grew up in a very Conservative Baptist Church. They were fundamental in their Christian doctrine and mixed into that doctrine many added “rules.” For example: One rule was that no guitars could be used in worship services because rock bands use guitars! They didn’t see the irony that rock bands also used organs. Another rule you’ve probably heard of is that no card playing was allowed. (Perhaps the reasoning was that the cards had demonic symbols or something). When our high school youth group would go to Denver for a YFC rally they kept the lights on in the bus even though we were good kids. These are just a few examples.
There was a big emphasis on behavior and outward appearance. Even though I’m sure it was preached, I don’t remember a big focus on God’s love for me. I actually tuned out most sermons because they were really boring.
I accepted Jesus as my Savior at age 6 because I wanted to go to heaven when I died. I tried to walk with Jesus only to learn later that I wasn’t developing a relationship with Him. I was just living in the Christian culture and thought I had that relationship with Jesus until I went to Bethel College and started doubting everything I had been taught about Him. I dropped out of college for other reasons after one semester and began adulthood feeling lost. It really didn’t help that I had been sexually abused by a camp counselor that everyone loved. I officially walked away from God a few years later when a close friend dumped me for a new friend.
After several years of trying to seek love, attention, and purpose, and not finding it, I turned back to God. It was such a relief. I was the prodigal daughter returning to her Father. I will tell that story another time. But being back in church brought back the legalistic baggage that I was raised in.
I started going to an Evangelical Free Church that wasn’t perfect but also didn’t have those silly man-made rules that weren’t in the Bible. Besides having childhood church baggage, I also had family baggage and wounds from my time away from God in which I made some really bad choices. My new church had a thriving single’s group, Bible Studies, and support groups that helped with different issues such as grief and loss. I really appreciated that they had a large single parent’s group that was nurturing and non-shaming. I wasn’t a single parent but it spoke to me that this church cared.
Thus began the untangling of what I was taught about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that was mixed in with legalism. It was a slow process and I was so fortunate to find a Christian counselor who had also had a similar background. He also helped me separate God from people.
I thoroughly retested the truths I had been taught as a child. I started studying the Bible as a whole and learned to use scripture to prove scripture and not rely on man’s interpretation. I learned that in order to find personal freedom I needed to forgive those people—especially the Christian ones—that had deeply wounded me. Meanwhile, I was still testing every Christian doctrine. After all, if the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who were of noble character examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true, then I could too.
A lot of people who grow up in “fundamental” churches and maybe are wounded by them end up tossing the whole thing. They might become atheists, agnostics, or start to create their own version of Christianity. These new versions of Christianity usually do not include the Jesus of the Bible. They throw out the Jesus that has been given all authority by the Father (Matthew 28:18); who has supremacy over all creation (Colossians 1:15-20); who claimed to be the Messiah (John 4:25-26); who said that belief in Him is required to have eternal life (John3:36); who said that the only righteousness we can have is only through Him (Romans 3:22-26); and who has the power and authority to rescue us and reconcile us to God through His death and resurrection.
After 30 years of testing and scrutinizing the Bible and the “fundamental” doctrines of evangelical Christianity, I believe in Jesus’ sovereignty all the more and refuse to throw Him out with the legalism, creepy Christians, false teaching about Him, and my own wounds. I’m keeping the true Jesus, not the reinvented Jesus…a Jesus that does nothing for me because a reinvented Jesus stripped of His deity and power to forgive doesn’t care about me and can’t help me.
Excuse me while this Jesus (who loves me) and I go dump out the dirty bathwater.